Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Collaboration Generates Synergy: Saint Paul Public Library the College of St. Catherine, and the "Family Place" Program. (Community Building)

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Collaboration Generates Synergy: Saint Paul Public Library the College of St. Catherine, and the "Family Place" Program. (Community Building)

Article excerpt

This issue's column demonstrates a community building project in St. Paul, Minnesota, involving faculty and students working with the public library to serve immigrant parents and children.

Collaboration is a hot topic in librarianship. Hundreds of articles have been published that describe how librarians and libraries have allied with other parties to institute new programs and services. Library Literature listed 253 articles about library collaboration as of June 1, 2001, while ERIC provides 1,048 documents and articles on the same topic. It should be noted that many of the same articles appear in both lists, and that the total includes some false drops. The Expanded Academic Index and OCLC's FirstSearch offered nearly one hundred citations, but these duplicate articles listed in Library Literature or ERIC. Most of the literature describes either intrainstitutional cooperation, such as librarian-faculty partnerships in delivering instructional programs, or interinstitutional agreements, including computer networking, collection development, and library-school collaboration.

The collaborative effort between the Saint Paul Public Library and the College of St. Catherine to present "Family Place," a family literacy program targeted at immigrant mothers and children in St. Paul, Minn., is a significant departure from most of the studies mentioned above. The Saint Paul Public Library-College of St. Catherine (SPPL-CSC) initiative is noteworthy for three reasons:

1. The program bridges the gap that usually divides tax-funded, public libraries from private colleges. Although examples abound of public libraries working with public universities or with community colleges, a coalition between a public library and a church-affiliated educational institution to work on a specific project is a rare occurrence.

2. The project involved many discrete constituencies that otherwise would not have joined forces. These included librarians from the Saint Paul Public Library; the director of the College of St. Catherine libraries; five students of the College of St. Catherine, who volunteered to help plan and present the program; and faculty from the departments of Education, Information Management, and the graduate program in Library and Information Science. While the Saint Paul Public Library--College of St. Catherine family literacy initiative was in the planning stages, students in an undergraduate Information Management course in Research and Needs Analysis chose, as a class project, to develop surveys to assess the alliance's effectiveness. The course focuses upon developing, conducting, and analyzing surveys and questionnaires. This course is taught in Weekend College, designed for working adults. For that reason, these students may be more mature and highly motivated than traditional-age students.

3. This experience demonstrated the benefits of involving students in library outreach programs. Students, when treated as equal partners, are competent, reliable, and resourceful allies. The five student volunteers were engaged in virtually every aspect of planning, designing, and implementing the program. The twenty-two members of the Research and Needs Analysis course learned how to interview a real client (the grant collaborators) to determine the kinds of data needed to evaluate the project, to design an effective survey, and to analyze responses from participants.

This article describes the development, implementation, and outcomes of the Saint Paul Public Library--College of St. Catherine Family Place project.


With each succeeding census, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., are cities becoming rich in diversity, with twenty immigrant communities in their midst, in addition to other minority groups of the cities. For example, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, there are sixty thousand Hmong and more than six thousand Somali living in the Twin Cities today. …

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